Introducing New Queen

I’ve finally sorted out the issues with my queen bee (see the drone layer post) and I thought I’d post a few photos of good brood comb, drone-laying queen comb, and a sign that your queen introduction isn’t going well!


Drone cells in centre left. The pattern shown, with bullet-like protrusions surrounded by empty cells, indicates a drone layer. The dark cells around the drone cells contain pollen and are normal.
Normal brood comb: the capped cells are flat and evenly distributed across the frame with few empty cells

Normal brood comb: the capped cells are flat and evenly distributed across the frame with few empty cells

The queen comes in a cage with a few attendant bees. The white on the left is the candy, which the bees eat to release the queen.

Once I killed the existing queen I should have waited three days (72 hours) before introducing the new queen. Taking what the weather was providing, I put my queen in after two days. The queen cage is hung between two frames and the bees are supposed to ignore it. Over the next three days the queen either has the candy plug eaten out by other bees until she can escape, or you need to release her on that day if she hasn’t managed to get out yet. If one introduces a queen too early after killing the old queen, which I did, the old queen’s pheromones haven’t dissipated yet and the bees attack the new queen. This is called balling and you can see it developing in my photos.

The queen cage is in the upper center, obscured by the ball of bees.

Balling is bad because the bees chew at the queen through the mesh screen of the queen cage and can eat the pads of her feet off. With hollow legs and a circulatory system that doesn’t have arteries or veins, the queen call slowly ‘bleed’ to death with the pads of her feet gone. Grisly but no worries, my queen appears to be fine and happily laying lots of eggs now. Just another demonstration of the precise and time-dependent nature of beekeeping. “Think like a bee” is becoming my new motto!

Dandelions are the first major nectar flow of the season.

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